Friday, March 9, 2012

Visit to the Cemetery and the Dump

The tomb of one of the wealthiest families in Guatemala

Not that long ago I had the interesting experience of seeing first hand the cemetery and the dump which lie side by side in the middle of Guatemala City.  During all the years that we lived in Cubulco when we would come to the city we would stay at a seminary guest house which is very close to the cemetery and the dump.  When the winds were favorable we would not be able to smell the dump which was usually the case.  But every so often the winds would change and some times the smell would be overpowering.  I remember one time waking up in the middle of the night from the stench.  Imagine working and living in or near the dump which is the case for many Guatemalans.  
This is the case of many of the children that attend one of our main schools in the city called Verbena.  Verbena has 800 children that attend classes each day of the week.  This is also where the central AMG office is located and that is where I go almost every day.  I have had the privilege to visit some of the homes of the kids whose parents work in the dump.  However, it was not until recently that I actually could see the dump with my own eyes. 
A looted tomb!
A few months ago I went with a group of people to look at the dump.  I went again before the New Year with my parents and family.  The easiest way to see the dump is to go through one of the main national cemeteries in Guatemala City.  The cemetery is like a small town (except of course that no one is living there), and you see even there the stark contrast between the rich and the poor.  The rich have built themselves beautiful, ornate tombs, while the poor are buried in "apartment" like tombs where if you do not pay the rent the body is removed and discarded somewhere or the poor are buried on the outskirts of the cemetery at the edge of a ravine bordering on the dump.  When the edge of the ravine gives way the tombs falls down into the dump.  Grave robbing is also common so many of the wealthy have built fortresses to keep these grave robbers from entering and stealing any valuables that might be buried with the deceased.  For those who can not afford to make their tombs theft proof they have a good chance of having it opened up and desecrated by looters.  It is solemn to see this.  

The edge of the cemetery borders on a deep ravine where the dump is located.  As we stood there overlooking the dump we could see hundreds of people picking through garbage trying to find discarded treasure. People recycle not out of a desire to be eco-friendly but out of a need to survive.  These people called "scavengers" pick through garbage in order to earn a little bit of money to be able to put some food on the table.  It is estimated that around 11,000 people make a living from the dump. It is a sad reality and one that is not just seen here in Guatemala, but in many developing countries.  AMG is trying to help some of the families who live off the dump by providing children with an education, food, safe environment, and the only answer to all of life's problems which is Jesus Christ.  True transformation or holistic development can not be done apart from Christ.

1 comment:

Loria said...

Hi Nico and Lia! I was deeply moved by this post. It crushes me to see all those looted tombs, and the dump makes it even more disturbing. Clearly, the division between the rich and the poor is seen in this cemetery. Well, I wish you guys luck in all your efforts to help those families.

-Loria Schleiff